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Quail Run Vineyards expands into Talent drainage

South Stage Cellars is dramatically expanding its vineyard operation, Quail Run Vineyards. Within the last six months, Quail Run owners Don, Traute and Michael Moore have purchased two pieces of land and leased a third, all of them located in the Wagner Creek drainage in Talent.

The “Cedars Ranch” field, at 62 acres, and the “Smith” plot, at 67 acres, were purchased from Associated Fruit Co. of Phoenix. Quail Run plans to plant grape vines incrementally on the acreage while Associated Fruit continues to harvest from the remaining pear trees. An additional 15 acres have been leased from Robert Folda of Medford.

These parcels join 11 other vineyards Quail Run owns or leases, totaling 285 acres and stretching from Talent to Jacksonville. Quail Run grows 29 varieties of grapes and sells much of the harvest to 30 wineries throughout Oregon. Many of the wines made from Quail Run grapes are sold at the South Stage Cellars tasting room.

South Stage Cellars also uses Quail Run grapes to produce wine under its own label, contracting for custom crush with winemakers such as Eric Weisinger, Brian Denner, John Quinones, Joe Dobbes and Linde Kester.

Quail Run and South Stage Cellars are now deciding which varietals to plant on the new acreage, how much of these grapes to sell to other Oregon wineries and whether to increase South Stage Cellars’ wine production.

Vineyard manager Michael Moore points out that the Wagner Creek drainage is the best location locally for pinot noir, cabernet franc and merlot. “Its elevation makes it cooler, which allows the fruit to ripen slowly without rapid increase in brix but there are minimal frost issues,” says Moore.

“So much of Southern Oregon’s pinot noir harvest is sent to wineries in the Willamette Valley,” says Moore, “and they want our fruit picked very ripe, at 24 or 25 brix, to offset the lack of ripeness and high acidity that often happens with northern fruit.”

“If we are making our own pinot noir, we need to harvest at optimum flavor at a lower brix to improve the fruit/acid balance.”

“To really put Southern Oregon wine on the map, we need to focus on what varietals grow best in this region and when we pick the fruit,” says Moore. “We need to make the best wine we can.”

“There is a common saying, ‘Wine is made in the vineyard,’” says Moore. “Grapes need constant attention. We are continually passing through the vineyard, pruning, thinning, dropping fruit to concentrate flavor, adjusting for sunlight. We could not do this without our highly skilled vineyard workers.”

Quail Run employs 25 full-time workers, with larger crews hired during harvest. Some of their employees have been with them 12 to 14 years. When Moore took over as the vineyard manager in 2011, he began a policy of naming the crew manager at each vineyard as vineyard supervisor and depending on him for crop updates on a daily basis.

“Information filters upward,” says Moore. “My employees have lived with these vines for years. Their day-to-day observations impact the quality of the fruit and of the wine. I get daily reports from my vineyard supervisors, and we jointly decide what we need to do for the grapes that day.”

Moore wants Southern Oregon to establish its own identity with its syrah, tempranillo, cabernet franc, viognier, grenache and sauvignon blanc.

“We can do these better than anywhere else on the West Coast, but these varietals are harder to sell than Bordeaux varietals or pinot noir.”

South Stage Cellars is a member of the Jacksonville Winery Association, along with DANCIN, Quady North, Caprice and Daisy Creek wineries. The Association was formed last year as a collaborative effort to showcase these boutique wineries as well as the town of Jacksonville.

The association is having its first wine cruise, from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21. Participants start at any of the five wineries, park their car and board a shuttle van that will continuously circle the route, stopping at each winery. Tickets cost $15 per person and include three tastings per winery, food pairings and the shuttle. They can be purchased online at www.jacksonvillewineries.com or at one of the wineries.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.